“I’m fixin’ to quit my day job and go on the speaking circuit.”
After hearing a young single-mom’s desire to speak ending with this statement, I sat in stunned silence. How could I tell her the truth without deflating her passion? I couldn’t think of a way to sugar coat it, so I just plunged in, begging her not to quit her job that created a regular paycheck, paid the rent and kept the lights on.
Here’s the truth as I know it. There are lots and lots and LOTS of women who would love to turn their speaking dreams into a full-time gig … including me. Contrast that truth with another one I know for sure. Even though I’m on the speaker team of a nationally recognized ministry, I don’t make enough speaking to even come close to a full-time salary.
In fact, the only speaker I know who speaks enough to make it full time is Lysa TerKeurst. In case you don’t know Lysa, she’s amazing. Incredible. Everything in real life that she seems from the stage. I both love and admire her, but realistically I know not many of us will make it to her level of notoriety in our ministries. You might be the one (truly), but not many of us will.
One last truth. There is no speaking circuit. Or if there is, I haven’t found it.
I’ve said all the hard stuff, so you can take a deep relaxing breath now. 🙂 Encouragement follows!
This week is the first in a series during the month of September on speaker fees, and I just wanted to set a realistic but hopeful tone.
Is vocational ministry possible for Christian speakers? Yes. But there are two things you should know. It takes patience and years of building. Also, it may not look like what you thought when you started.
When Made to Crave, Lysa’s 14th (I think) book, came out 4 years ago and hit the New York Times Best Seller list, I remember hearing her say this in an interview, “People keep asking me what it feels like to be an overnight success. I tell them it feels like 17 years of very hard work, because that’s what it is!”
Seventeen years. For seventeen years Lysa served faithfully, honed her craft, showed up to speak to 5 people, wrote books that didn’t hit best seller lists, stood in line at airport security, schlepped boxes of books to resources tables…
She was patient.
She was persistent in her calling.
She worked tremendously hard. (I’ve seen this first hand, and let me tell you, she’s working harder than ever today.)
She loved God more than any acclaim, and I’m watching her get increasingly humble with increasing human fame. It’s beautiful.
That’s what patience has looked like for Lysa TerKeurst. For me, it’s a different journey with some of the same markers. My vocational calling has unfolded over time to include coaching and writing as well as speaking. Most likely I won’t ever speak in front of thousands on a Women of Faith stage, but I delight in being a tiny piece of so many speaker’s ministries through my coaching.
So if you want to do full-time vocational ministry, be open to a different look than you thought and be willing to go through the P.I.T. This is the phase my friend Leah calls “Put In the Time”. It’s the phase when you’re payed with “Thanks!” and maybe a Starbucks gift card. It’s the phase when nobody knows your name, but you serve whole-heartedly for The Name anyway. It’s a stage when you’ll probably keep your day job to pay the bills and grow the level of trust in your ministry community over time.
Patience and the P.I.T. That’s where we all start. It’s the proving ground and the holy place of shaping. It’s where we show God that He’s worth it all, and His pleasure in us is payment enough.
I’d love to hear about your first speaking opportunity! Let’s share and encourage each other no matter what stage we’re in.